The artist formerly known as The Man Who Saved Movies returns to dissect Disney’s attempts to make Star Wars, and to give it a prod and a poke. Wear your PPE, this corpse could be juicy!
Disney Star Wars: An Autopsy
Back in 2012 the surprising news broke that George Lucas had sold Lucasfilm to Disney in a deal that was rather lucrative, to say the least. This was swiftly followed by the news that there would be new movies. All overseen by veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy who was famous for her work with Steven Spielberg.
And the hits just kept on coming. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher would all be returning to the roles they made iconic along with Peter Mayhew and Anthony Daniels. A new chapter in the adventures of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2. Fans rejoiced!
And not only was Episode VII going into production to begin a new trilogy, we’d also be getting stand alone adventure films and live action TV shows. Writer/Director J.J Abrams was considered a solid choice to helm the new movie. The future looked bright for Star Wars.
After three trailers and endless speculation from fans Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released to eager audiences at Christmas 2015. It was huge hit and enjoyed decent reviews. Sure, the story was a bit of rehash of A New Hope and audiences were somewhat disappointed to only get a brief, wordless appearance from Luke Skywalker at the end. But knowing that the next part of the story was well into production was a comfort.
Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron(Oscar Isaac) were interesting characters with the potential for further exploration while Adam Driver’s Kylo Renn was a compelling villain.
Christmas 2016 brought us Rogue One: A Star Wars Story which was again a critical and commercial hit. The first standalone adventure in the franchise was a rock ’em sock ’em sci-fi war movie. Well made, it fitted snugly into canon. Whilst it was just a movie based on the opening crawl of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope it was something different for fans and was a nice place holder whilst waiting for Episode VIII.
Little did we know that things were about to go horribly f*cking wrong.
After lulling fans into a false sense of security with two competent movies, Christmas 2017 brought us writer/director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
Before The Dark Times…
It was a truly bizarre film. It completely flew in the face of everything that had gone before. Plotlines set out by Abrams were either ignored or thrown away. Luke Skywalker was unrecognizable from the hero we grew up with. One of cinema’s greatest heroes was turned into a grumpy old man who drank milk from the tits of giant space cows and had fantasies about murdering his own nephew. Boyega’s Finn was thrown to the side-lines, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron was reduced to a “Yo Mama” joke. Brendan Gleeson, returning as General Hux, became a sniveling pantomime villain while Andy Serkis’ Snoke, set up as the big bad previously, was offed without a second’s thought.
Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Renn did emerge with some dignity intact – but the movie proved truly divisive. It was obvious what Rian Johnson’s objective was. He wanted to catch the audience off guard and surprise them. What he did instead was alienate them.
Perhaps worst of all was the divisive politics at the heart of the film. It appeared as if some kind of modern “woke” agenda was there and, at times, it felt as if it was being used as a club to beat the audience over the head with. Star Wars is supposed to be a fairy tale adventure – not a piece of extreme political propaganda.
The Last Jedi is not a movie you watch. It is a movie you have a fight with.
The blame for this was laid at the feet of producer Kathleen Kennedy. Fans were upset that she allowed this to happen on her watch. By this stage we had already heard that George Lucas’ story ideas were discarded, and in 2016 we were greeted by the result of that decision. A Star Wars film made by people that just didn’t get Star Wars.
Rose Tico, Kellie Marie Tran’s character was the focus of much of the criticism. As was Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo. Nobody knew why these characters were there, nor what purpose they served to the story. When disgusted fans made their feelings known – they were met with complete indifference.
Solo: A Star Wars Story hit in Spring 2018. The identity politics and “woke” agenda was cranked up to the maximum. None of this was helped by the fact that this was movie that no one really wanted. A New Hope was Han Solo’s origin story. There was nothing else we needed to know.
Audiences voted with their wallets. The film was a financial disappointment. It seemed the only thing that could make Disney listen was to hit them where it really hurt. Their pocket.
…Before The Empire
All eyes were on Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker.
Original writer/director Colin Trevorrow had left the project paving the way for the return of J.J Abrams. Fans were cautiously optimistic. But at Christmas 2019 The Rise Of Skywalker proved to be the biggest insult of them all.
The movie was a desperate two-hour attempt to repair all the mistakes that Rian Johnson had made. The makers thought bringing back Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine would distract fans from that. And shoehorning in a twist making Rey his granddaughter was an even more cynical and calculating move.
It did not please fans. All it did was make everything Luke Skywalker went through in the original trilogy completely pointless.
Back in 1977 the original Star Wars was a low budget almost arthouse film in its conception. It was just a story George Lucas wanted to tell. 20th Century Fox only greenlit it to use up some of their yearly budget. Lucas held on to those merchandising rights simply to advertise the film, to get people out there wearing Star Wars T-Shirts. He did not trust Fox to do the job properly.
The fact that it was such a cultural phenomenon was completely unexpected.
And despite it making Lucas rich beyond his wildest dreams he never lost the independent spirit that so infused the story. He set up a filmmaking empire (pardon the pun) which to this day, through its multiple divisions, pushes filmmaking technology and techniques to the bleeding edge in terms of visual effects, editing and sound.
George Lucas would further go on to fund The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith out of his own pocket so that he could have complete creative control. Despite how harshly history may judge the last three of those films it should judge Lucas himself more kindly. He never pandered to an audience. He was only ever out to please himself. To tell the overall story he wanted to tell.
When Disney took control of the IP – something fundamental to its success was lost in the transition. It was no longer the magnum opus of a storyteller. It was just another brand they owned. Star Wars just became two words they could slap on any old sh*t because they know there are twats out there like me who’ll pay for it.
And while the Disney+ show The Mandalorian is legitimately entertaining and is being made by people who seem to know what they are doing – the damage that the movies have done can never really be repaired.
Before Disney purchased Lucas’ creation there was an Expanded Universe of novels, comics and videogames. Further continuing the adventures of our heroes in this universe. It was wiped out of canon by Disney shortly after the dotted line was signed.
But they are still out there. In the early 90s author Timothy Zahn released a trilogy of novels. Heir To The Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command. You want a real Star Wars sequel? You want these characters to mean something again? Read those.
I do not know what cinematic future Star Wars has if any. But I am sure whatever it is will be as welcome as a wookieturd in the Millennium Falcon cockpit.
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